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June 28, 2012

MBTA bailout heads to governor amid criticism

BOSTON — With a new fiscal year set to dawn Sunday and the MBTA’s proposed budget far out of whack, the Legislature yesterday approved a bill delivering an emergency bailout, largely by redirecting millions of dollars in auto inspection fees to the agency.

The final version of the bill cleared the House 127-24 and passed the Senate 27-9. Supporters said the bailout was needed to rescue the massive transit agency that serves as a transportation lifeline for many in eastern Massachusetts. Opponents described an agency “out of control” and turning to taxpayers after spending recklessly.

The bill provides $49 million in inspection fees to the T and sends $3.5 million to regional transit authorities. With Gov. Deval Patrick’s signature, the bill would become law.

Patrick and Transportation Secretary Richard Davey in March suggested tapping into the Motor Vehicle Inspection Trust Fund to bail the MBTA out of a $160 million budget gap that is largely being addressed with an average 23 percent fare hike set to take effect on Sunday.

Davey and Patrick got almost as much as the $51 million in fee revenues they originally sought for the T but not before absorbing some outrage from critics, who criticized the transit authority’s management.

Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole, said the transit authority is outdated and mismanaged and voted against the bill when it came before the Senate yesterday afternoon.

Senators were piqued by an Ernst & Young audit presented Tuesday, which revealed “gaps” in the MBTA’s management procurement and inventory of materials.

“We can decide whether to subsidize the kinds of things that are going on in this report,” Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, said. “Or we can decide to say to the folks at home right now, who are afraid that the trains may not run sometime soon, or the bus may not be there on the schedule that it’s on now or that when they get into their car they’re going to be charged even more to pay for these kinds of problems. Maybe we could say to them that we are good stewards.”

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